ELIZABETHTOWN — Defense was on display Monday when Midway came to town and took on the Lady Eagles in a Four County Conference soccer match.
As has been the case nearly all season long, it was the East Bladen defense that shined brightest as the Lady Eagles posted its sixth straight shutout with a 1-0 win over the Lady Raiders.
The two teams played to a 0-0 knot through the first 40 minutes, but East Bladen clearly dominated the play in that first half. That paid off early in the second half.
With about 8 minutes expired in the second half, Lexi Mendell got one of her six steals in the match and bumped the ball over to Justyna Gargala, who found Lacey Suggs with a pass — and Suggs did the rest, sending a laser into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Each team had at least a couple of opportunities the rest of the way to score goals, but neither could take advantage.
Suggs led East Bladen with a goal and 19 steals, while Ashley Harding recorded seven steals. The trio of Mendell, Cassie Hill and Ting Lin combined for 18 steals. Gargala was credited with an assist and also had four steals. Abby Ward and Claire Campbell also had four steals each. Kathryn Cole had four saves in the nets.
As a team, the Lady Eagles outshot Midway by an 18-4 margin and had a 6-4 advantage in corners.
— In Elizabethtown on Monday, East Bladen held off a late Midway rally and, for the first time in the Four County Conference era, the Eagles swept the Raiders with a 6-5 win.
East Bladen burst out of the gate quickly with four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Sincere Smith sparked the uprising with a lead-off single and, moments later, Nikita Owens laced an RBI single for the first run. Ty Watkins followed with a sing;e and Xavier Wooten punched an RBI single for a 2-0 lead. Alex Coates singled to drive home two runs for the 4-0 edge.
Midway cut the deficit in half with two runs in the second, but East Bladen answered with two runs in the home half behind an RBI triple by Quinton Bedsole and RBI single by Owens for a 6-2 lead.
The Eagles’ defense was a key in the fourth frame, as Wooten hauled in a fly ball in right field and fired a bullet to Deondre Newkirk at third to catch a tagged-up runner.
But the Raiders broke through again with two runs in the fifth and another run in the sixth to creep within 6-5. In the s top of the seventh, Midway used two East Bladen errors to put runners at the corners with one out. But Tatum found the runner at third napping with a pickoff throw for the second out and the rally fizzled there.
Watkins earned the win on the hill for East Bladen, going 5.2 innings and giving up six hits, five walks, a hit batter and striking out four. Wooten finished up to earn the save.
Owens led the Eagles at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two RBI, while Watkins was 2-for-3 and Bedsole was 1-for-3 with the triple and RBI. Coates had two RBI for East Bladen.
— In Elizabethtown on Monday, the visiting Lady Raiders plated seven runs in the first inning and cruised to a 13-2 Four County Conference win over East Bladen.
For the Lady Eagles, the highlight of the game came in the second inning when Midway had runners at second and third with nobody out. A fly ball to center was gathered in by Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson, who quickly threw a laser to third to pick off the runner and third baseman Faith Johnson pegged a throw to second base that picked off that runner for a triple play.
East Bladen got on the board in the bottom of the second when Olivia Hollingsworth and Moore-Peterson each walked ahead of Miller Heustess’ two-run double that cut the deficit to 7-2.
But the Lady Raiders scored two runs in the top of the third, one run in the fourth and three in the fifth to seal the game.
Huestess, who took the loss in the circle, was 3-for-3 at the plate with the double and two RBI, while Emily Scott was 2-for-3.